Statement of "Supertrains" Author, New Rail Group Presid

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Nick Leverton

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Feb 11, 1993, 9:29:58 PM2/11/93
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In article <1993Feb7.2...@bradford.ac.uk> G.P.Ha...@bradford.ac.uk (GP HANSFORD) writes:
>la9...@black.ox.ac.uk (David S Lecomber) writes:
>>Only one APT set has survived, and is "preserved" at Crewe in the Heritage
>>Centre,
>I remember seeing one at the York railway museum about two years ago,
>is it still there? It was in a bit of a state.

That's a different train: the APT-E. "E" stands for "Experimental", and
the APT-E was the technology proving train. It never ever ran in
passenger service and was a completely different beast from the
production train. APT-E was only four cars long: two gas turbine power
cars, and two trailers chock full of instrumentation. It ran regular
tests in several places, but particularly on the Midland Main Line and
the Old Dalby Test Track. You're probably familiar with the photograph
of a prototype Concorde making a low pass over the GW main line near
Filton as the APT-E passed underneath. What a fluke that must have been
for the photographer - I just cannot imagine it being set up! And, too,
there are photo's of the APT-E and the experimental HST (41 001 + 41 002,
later numbered as a multiple unit 252 001) side by side at Swindon.

The train which *did* run in service was the APT-P, for "Prototype".
There were three full trains, each composed of two identical half trains
of driving trailer, six (I think) articulated cars and a non-driving
electric Bo-Bo power car. The two power cars were formed in the middle
of the train because, at the time they were designed, pantograph
technology wasn't up to having two pans at opposite ends of the train
both working at the 150mph envisaged for the train.

By the time they reached passenger service one half of each train had
been reduced to just driving trailer plus power car because it wasn't
economical to provide two full sets of staff - there was no access
between the two halves except via a cramped, noisy walkway through the
guts of the power cars.

The APT-P was introduced on Monday 7th December 1981 to a blaze of
publicity. As noted by another poster, certain inebriate hacks
exaggerated the nausea problem, which was mainly due to the fact that
the tilt mechanism compensated *too* perfectly for the sensations of
cornering. But the train did suffer two or three minor tilt failures
during the trial run, which didn't help its credibility either. Nor did
an unauthorised stop at Carstairs on the return journey to set down the
minor television personality Isla St. Clair - I think we were about 40
minutes late into Glasgow, which meant the trip took the same time as a
normal train ;-)

However the major problem was that the night of 7th-8th December brought
some of the worst winter weather for several years to the whole of
England[*]. During the following three days BR tried to continue the APT
service, but - as with most other stock on the network - moisture kept
freezing, not in the high-speed hydraulic brakes, but in the air brake
lines which were supposed to take over at lower speeds. On the Wednesday
the southbound trip was cancelled at Crewe and the train withdrawn from
service.

[*] Scotland *always* has bad winter weather, Ken :-)

As far as the media were concerned that was the end of the APT. However
the engineers kept working quietly on retuning the tilt mechanism, and
in summer 1982 the APT was very quietly reintroduced to service. At
first it ran as a relief train shadowing a normal service; later, as
confidence grew, it gained its own departure slot, about 10.30 from
Glasgow and an early evening return from Euston if I remember. I
travelled on it several times between 1982 - 1984 and the ride was quite
superb and the reliability exemplary. I deeply regret though that,
photographically speaking, it was a bit of a 'jinx train' - I have many
feet of ruined film of it due to undetected camera failures.

But, though the train was technically a success, the political battle
had been lost and the management will to build the APT-S ("Squadron")
had evaporated. Eventually it was withdrawn from service; two trains
were scrapped and one sent to Crewe Heritage Centre (a siding at the
back of Crewe Works) where from time to time the newspapers rediscover
"BR's Wonder Train Shunted Into A Siding".

Nick

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